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Arun Jaitley, Rahul Gandhi engage in war of words on business index rise

A day after the World Bank’s report showing India’s ranking in the “Ease of Doing Business” Index having risen 30 places, the BJP and the Congress were engaged in a war of words. While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi used a couplet to take a dig at the government, suggesting that reality contradicts the report’s findings, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley hit back saying that the UPA’s “ease of doing corruption” has been replaced by the NDA’s “ease of doing business”.

Joining his Cabinet colleague to take on Mr Gandhi, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked how much the Congress leader knows about the economy, and added that the more Mr Gandhi speaks, the more he exposes himself.

Mr Gandhi, who is campaigning in Gujarat, tweeted in Urdu, taking off from a famous Ghalib verse, to say that the finance minister was deluding himself. Soon after the World Bank’s report was released on Tuesday, Mr Jaitley said India was the only major country that was named for pursuing structural reforms.

“Sabko maloom hai ‘ease of doing business’ ki haqeeqat, lekin khud ko khush rakhne ke liye ‘Dr Jaitley’ ye khayal achha hai (Everybody knows the reality about the ease of doing business, but this thought, Dr Jaitley, is good to keep yourself happy),” Mr Gandhi tweeted.

Hitting back, Mr Jaitley tweeted: “The difference between the UPA and NDA — The ease of doing corruption has been replaced by the ease of doing business.”

According to the World Bank report, India’s rank in the “Ease of Doing Business” index has risen from 130 to 100 this year, helped by a slew of reforms in taxation, licensing, investor protection and bankruptcy resolution.

At an election rally in Gujarat, Mr Gandhi said, “Yesterday Arun Jaitley said some foreign organisation has certified that India has considerably improved in ease of doing business. He sits in his office and believes what foreigners say.” Mr Jaitley, he said, should ask small and mid-sized businessmen if ease of doing business had really improved or not. “The entire country will shout and say ease of doing business is absent, you have destroyed it, your demonetisation and GST have ruined it,” said the Congress leader.

Refuting the Congress leader’ charges, Mr Prasad said Mr Gandhi was making “fun of the economy” without doing any homework.

“India has been in the range of 130-140. In the last two years, we made it to 131 and 130 spot. This year, we have jumped 30 points to 100. Does he know this is the highest jump any country has made in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking?… He doesn’t do any homework anyway. Those who do it for him also don’t have their facts correct,” said Mr Prasad.

Mr Gandhi cut short his visit to Gujarat to visit Rae Bareli, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, where an explosion in an NTPC plant claimed 16 lives on Wednesday.

Mr Gandhi tweeted, “Due to the unfortunate NTPC accident, I will visit Rae Bareli tomorrow morning. Will join Gujarat Navsarjan Yatra in the afternoon.”

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